'Strawberry Ridge' writer-director talks about River City Players' new show

Monday, July 1, 2013
Director Roseanna Whitlow gives instructions to the cast during a rehearsal for the River City Players production of her play, "Strawberry Ridge." (Adam Vogler)

Roseanna Whitlow-Greenwood has been involved with the River City Players, Cape Girardeau's community theater group, for more than 10 years. When the players take the stage for their next performance at the end of the month, Whitlow-Greenwood will have played a major role (offstage): She wrote the play and is serving as the production's director. Here, she talks about "Strawberry Ridge" and taking it from her head to the stage:

TBY: How long have you been involved with the River City Players? In what capacity?

Whitlow-Greenwood: I've been a board member -- and officer -- with the River City Players for well over a decade. RCP is dedicated to producing and promoting quality theater, which has always been a big part of my life.

TBY: Is this the first time you've written a play? What's the process like?

Whitlow-Greenwood: I think I wrote my first play (about Thanksgiving) in second grade -- and my "cast" and I went to the other classrooms and performed it. Many years later, I attained a Ph.D. with an emphasis in playwriting, and I've written plays in a variety of genres since then.

For example, "The Mighty Mississippi Melodrama: Or Do I Smell a River Rat?" (available for tourism and other groups through Cape's Convention and Visitors Bureau) has been performed dozens of times in the past 10 years. And a short dramatic script, "Thistle Blossoms," has had hundreds of productions around the world, has won awards in such interesting places as Ararat, Australia and Newfoundland, Canada, and had a three-week Off-Off-Broadway run in New York.

The playwriting process itself is an amazing experience. After a long period -- week, months or sometimes years -- of saving notes and thoughts about the characters and possible scenes or lines, I get completely immersed -- awake and asleep -- in the characters and their world.

Roseanna Whitlow is directing the River City Players production of her play, "Strawberry Ridge." (Adam Vogler)

TBY: What's "Strawberry Ridge" all about?

Whitlow-Greenwood: "Strawberry Ridge" is a silly, sentimental, Southern comedy. The four very different ex-wives of Fisk Dixon have been called together by their former mother-in-law to help Fisk get out of a "fix." It seems the city is trying to take his strawberry field away for an access to a big-box store through eminent domain, so he's, literally, up a tree, chucking bottles and rocks at the 'dozer drivers and police. The relationships among the women really drive the play and, throughout the afternoon of plan-making, some old wounds are healed -- and some new injuries are almost inflicted. In the end, they find a way to save the day, their ex and Strawberry Ridge.

TBY: What inspired you when writing the play?

Whitlow-Greenwood: Most plays are inspired by either characters or a situation or event. Although eminent domain and the city taking the strawberry field is an important underlying situation, the (fictional) characters are who inspired me. They kept talking to me and wanting this written -- the exes, the feisty mother, the annoying news reporter, the affable rent-a-cop and Fisk, the lady-loving farmer.

TBY: You're also directing the production for the River City Players. Can you tell me about that experience?

Whitlow-Greenwood: I've directed educational and community plays for 40-plus years, and it's always great directing a show for RCP. The board and members, all volunteers from the area, work together to make it an enriching experience for all. I recommend anyone interested in theater to come see us and join in on the fun!

TBY: What has been the most difficult part of getting the play from the page to the stage?

Whitlow-Greenwood: Stopping the writing and revising when it was time to start rehearsals was tough! Since the situation and characters are fictional, I have to say goodbye to them. (Unless I write a sequel!)

TBY: What has been the most rewarding?

Whitlow-Greenwood: The entire experience of producing an original show is rewarding, but the best reward will be when audiences -- hopefully sold-out ones -- get to see the cast and crew bring "Strawberry Ridge" to life.

TBY: Tell me a little about your cast. How are rehearsals going?

Whitlow-Greenwood: The cast and crew are an impressive group -- talented, trained and experienced! Some of us have "done theater" together for many years, and some are new to RCP, and all are amazing. Every rehearsal is a delight.

TBY: What should audiences look forward to?

Whitlow-Greenwood: The audience will spend one hour of silly, sentimental, Southern, summer comedy with the Dixon family on Strawberry Ridge.

Want to go?

"Strawberry Ridge" will be performed Thursday, July 25, to Sunday, July 28, at Port Cape Girardeau. The show will begin at 8 p.m. July 25 through 27 with a chef's buffet served at 7 p.m. on July 26 and 27. There will be a dessert buffet July 25. The show will begin at 2 p.m. July 28 with a dessert buffet. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the show for the dessert buffet. Tickets are $20 for the Thursday and Sunday shows and $35 for the Friday and Saturday shows. Call Port Cape Girardeau, 573-334-0954, for reservations.

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